by Mitch Lorenz, Graduate Assistant, Reinert Center
When thinking about asking students for feedback there are a number of factors to consider. Your motivation as the instructor, the students’ motivation to provide authentic feedback, as well as your intentions for how to use the feedback all play a role in how the feedback might look, when it should be administered, and how students will respond.
Motivation of the Teacher
Consider why you are seeking feedback. These motivations may range from curiosity (e.g., Are my materials easy to follow?) to problem-based (e.g., Why did this assignment not provide the intended results?). You will also want to consider how you plan to use the feedback. Will you react immediately, making changes to the current course? Perhaps you will not make any immediate changes but, instead, use the information you receive to adjust your course before you teach it next.
Motivation of the Student
Consider the motivation of the student asked to provide feedback. Whether or not the feedback is anonymous in nature is likely to influence how candid students are as they may fear offending the teacher if they are too straightforward with criticisms. Additionally, students will be more likely to provide thorough and authentic feedback if they expect to see their comments addressed in some way. The timing of the feedback plays a role in this, as feedback opportunities provided late in the semester (e.g., end of course evaluations) provide little opportunity for any changes to be made for students currently enrolled in a course.
Recommendations (adapted from McKeachie & Svinicki, 2013)
- Don’t use standard forms
Targeting questions to address specific components of the class and the actual goal you have for seeking feedback will lead to responses more likely to provide insight. You may also use less traditional methods, such as inviting students to provide feedback in person during appointed times or having students fill out feedback forms in groups. Tailor the feedback to the situation and your goals for what you hope to learn.
- Collect feedback early enough for students to see results
Students will invest more if they believe they are likely to see their feedback have an impact. Even if you are not planning to make changes, informing students of the impact their feedback will have in future semesters can help them feel as if they’re making a difference.
- Be realistic in your response to the feedback
You may identify a number of things you could change but select two or three small things and leave the rest for future iterations of the class. Over-reacting to feedback can be just as detrimental as not reacting to the feedback at all, as it may distract you or lead to changes in areas that were already effectively guiding student learning.
Resources at Saint Louis University
- Small Group Instructional Feedback (SGIF)
Reinert Center staff collects mid-semester feedback anonymously at the individual, small group, and class-wide level with responses collected and returned to instructors before the next class session. Two open-ended questions are presented to students related to what is effective for their learning and what changes could be made to help their learning. More information is available on the Reinert Center website (here).
Qualtrics is a powerful survey tool made available to SLU students and faculty. It can be used to create anonymous surveys that can distributed to students with relative ease.
McKeachie, W. & Svinicki, M. (2013). McKeachie’s teaching tips. Cengage Learning